One of the great things about doing a podcast based around off the cuff conversation is I don’t have to prepare. One of the downsides to not preparing is I sound like a bumbling idiot when trying to defend a point against the machine that is David Huzzard. So, here I am putting number to my view of the discussion to hopefully make my argument a little more clear.
On last night’s podcast we got into a discussion that began in regard to Mike Gonzalez and quickly turned into a discussion about Ross Detwiler. The point of it being that Detwiler has much more competition for the 5th spot than Gonzalez for the bullpen spot, and is a longer shot to win that job. Long story short the conversation came to the point that 2012 may have been an aberration for Detwiler on two fronts: performance-wise, and from the health aspect as well.
I disagreed on the show and I disagree now.
Let’s start with the health side first. Detwiler has had two notable injuries to his name since being drafted by the Nationals in 2007. He injured his hip during Spring Training 2007 and his back mid-season 2013, both requiring surgery. Aside from those two instances he started 26 games in 2008, 30 (31 app) in 2009, 26 (31 app) in 2011, and 27 (33 app) in 2012. He even made 15 starts in 2009 after having hip surgery. With the two stints combined, Detwiler essentially missed a season…or what just about every other member, or prospective member, or the rotation has done in one way or another; the most “popular” being Tommy John surgery. Let’s face it, pitchers get hurt; we know this. To single out Detwiler for two injuries in a seven, going on eight, year career in professional baseball is a little unfair.
This brings us to our second point; Detwiler was on pace for 2013 being better than his 2012, until he injured his back. In eight games prior to getting injured Detwiler was 2-4 with a 2.76 ERA, 1.97 BB/9, 4.53 K/9, and a 3.84 RE24. Compare that to his five starts after returning from the DL where opposing batters we hitting him to the tune of a .854 OPS against leading him to an 0-3 record with a 6.31 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, and -7.86 RE24. Even with those atrocious five starts that left his final numbers looking mediocre to not great, Detwiler ended his season with 71.1 innings pitched and was worth 0.9 fWAR. With that ‘mediocre to not great’ performance of 2013 extrapolated over 164.1 IP (his 2012 tally), puts him at nearly 2.1 fWAR; compared to the 1.6 fWAR he garnered in 2012.
For comparison, the average 5th starter in 2012 made 18 starts, threw 106 innings, and was worth approximately 0.4 WAR.
By no means am I saying that Ross Detwiler is the answer to any problem with the Nationals, or that he decidedly deserves the 5th spot over anyone that out plays him during Spring Training. But if there’s a tie? He should be given the first shot.